Contacting parents whose children need to see an eye-care specialist was part of Lucy Manning’s work as a Lions Club volunteer. The local Lion recalled speaking to a mom about her daughter’s poor vision, based on a screening for children, ages 6 months to 6 years, completed by volunteers through the Lions KidSight USA program. “I got her paperwork and her vision was so bad that I thought to myself ‘this poor child,’” she said. The mom agreed to take her daughter for an appointment and Manning said she would follow-up in a couple of weeks. She did, and what she found out sent her hurrying to tell everybody else. “I called back,” Manning said, “and the mother told me ‘I had no idea that my daughter had such poor vision. I thought she was just really a clumsy little girl. We got her into the doctor and got glasses on her and her entire world opened up.’” The mother added, “She looked me in the face and said, ‘Mommy, I can finally see.’” “Needless to say, I was losing it,” Manning said. “I was so excited to be able to help.” That story has stayed with Manning over the years as husband Rob, herself and other Lions continue to volunteer their time to the Lions KidSight USA program, which was founded about six years ago and focuses on screening young children to find and correct vision issues before it is too late. Though the Mannings are both Lions Club members and volunteer with KidSight, they don’t belong to the same local club. Rob is a member of the Calimesa Breakfast Lions Club, while Lucy joined the Cali-Caipa Nooners Club. The difference? One meets at breakfast and one meets for lunch. If meeting for dinner is your preference, then there is also the Yucaipa Valley Lions Club in the area. Each Lions Club takes on a project. For the Cali-Caipa Nooners, it’s KidSight. Every member contributes to that project, along with other Lions members, like Rob, who just want to support the mission. It’s important for young children to have vision screenings, while they are still developing, he said. “A lot of them just don’t get their eyes checked,” he said about children age 6 and under. “You probably remember when you first got your eyes checked, it was probably maybe first or second grade.” Based on findings from KidSight, that can be too late. According to LionsKid-SightUSA.org, 1 in 3 young children naturally have poor but correctable vision – often just needing eyeglasses. With 80% of learning visual, if children cannot see well, they typically have more difficulty in developing. “What we have is a lot of kids running around who can’t see as well as they should,” Rob said. “It affects their school work. It affects a lot of their quality of life going in. “A big part of this work is there is an eye condition, in which, if you have one eye that is much stronger than the other eye, then as you are growing up until about 6 or 7 (years) you are favoring the one eye and you are not developing the other eye. That is easily correctable until about ages 6 or 7, but if you don’t correct it in that time frame, it is very difficult to correct. That is one of the big advantages of this program.” The eye condition referred to is called amblyopia, or more commonly known as lazy eye. “It is really our goal to find conditions at a young age that are correctable,” said Rob. “Then to also fit the kids with eyeglasses that need them. You would be surprised at the number of kids that need to go to the optometrist or ophthalmologist. We are finding anywhere between 10% to 15% of the kids we screen.” Each year, Rob said, their Lions Club area screens about 8,000 children. In fact, he said, the Desert Region of their district has been doing about 15 screenings a week since the beginning of the school year. “We do a whole lot. We stay very busy the first seven to eight weeks when (school gets) started,” he said, adding just last week he and Lucy went out to Twentynine Palms to conduct KidSight screenings. One of the main focuses of the KidSight program serving San Bernardino and Riverside counties is to provide vision screenings for children in Head Start programs. That has to be done within 45 days of the start of school, Rob said, which is why KidSight volunteers are busy between mid-January to April and again mid-August to mid-November, time frames when schools typically get new students. “We are happy to do it,” he said of the hectic screening schedule. The KidSight program in the Inland Empire partners with Loma Linda University Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, the Mannings said. The two groups coordinate together, with Loma Linda University doing the scheduling and trained Lions volunteers conducting the screenings in the field. The screening results are sent to Loma Linda University Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, and parents are called to let them know if their child needs further vision attention. After all the hours of volunteer work, Lucy said she still loves it, with her favorite part of the program helping the kids. “I think it’s wonderful,” she said of KidSight and the children. “Working with these kids is hysterical. They say things … The kids are like being around a bunch of puppies. They giggle and they are so silly. They are just adorable. They really are.” Of course, she said, making sure they get their eyes checked in a timely fashion. “After 6 (years), it is often not repairable,” she said. For more information on a local Lions Club, visit their Facebook page or website.
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